Building a Healthy Relationship With Your Body

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by Ari Anderson |

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So you’ve badly hurt another person’s feelings, and the guilt they’re making you feel is burning hot. You know how that goes, right?

Once, a friend was so steaming mad about a mistake I made that you could cut the atmosphere’s tension with a knife. I knew I’d continue to feel the heat until I humbled myself and apologized. I find that when I express true remorse and sincerely apologize, something changes inside of me. I always learn some valuable life lesson, and become a more complete person because of it. 

It can be relatively easy to ask forgiveness for a way you’ve wronged another person. However, there are also mistakes you can make concerning your health when living with spinal muscular atrophy, and unfortunately, SMA won’t be as forgiving. It’s almost like SMA takes on a life of its own and becomes jealous if you don’t give it the attention it craves. As a result, the disease takes it out on your body. If you slack off on regularly taking the time to do Vest treatments or the cough assist, you will face the wrath of this neuromuscular disease. 

Instead of facing the pressure of another person’s anger, you feel intense pressure from copious amounts of congestion packing into your lungs. 

Instead of someone being boiling mad at you, your body feels like it’s boiling from high fevers. 

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I’m not saying it’s someone’s fault when they get sick. Although some of us neglect treatments necessary to health, there are also those who simply have a hard time overcoming a particularly bad infection. Regardless, your body seems to scream at you, saying, “My feelings are hurt by the way you’ve been treating me recently. We need to reevaluate our relationship.”

How do you reevaluate your relationship with yourself and apologize to your own body? Like I said in my first column, it is imperative that you learn from your past experiences or “baggage.” After a life-threatening infection in 2016, Cystic Fibrosis News Today columnist Brad Dell also had to make amends for the way he’d been treating his body. In his first column Brad wrote, “I realized my body was a fighter and that it was time for my mind to join it. … It was time to kick harder against CF than I ever had before.”

Motivating your mind to join the fight instead of having your physicality fend for itself is the first step toward reconciling with your body. Then, the only way to truly apologize to yourself is to translate your newly motivated thoughts into intentional action.

Let’s illustrate this. Throughout 2016, I had been plagued by a respiratory infection basically every other month. This was a much higher frequency than normal. The worst infection at the time came in January 2017. My oxygen SATS were on a roller coaster, the numbers repeatedly driving up and plummeting down. For weeks I remained on the ventilator day and night. I’m usually on the vent only at night for the most part.

When I had finally recovered, with the help of my home nurses’ very aggressive care, I knew I had to change my lifestyle. No matter how crowded my schedule, I had to make time for a Vest treatment every day, even when feeling healthy. Apparently, my body liked that. Instead of getting sick every other month, using the Vest regularly helped me to go almost 18 months infection free!

By fall 2018, though, I fell back into my cycle of being unwell every two months until another climax hit me in February 2019.

Had I slacked off on using my Vest every day? No.

The reality is that every relationship’s expectations must be reevaluated every now and then. People’s relationship with their own body is no different. My reevaluation helped me realize that on top of doing Vest treatments daily, four rounds of percussion each, I would also use the cough assist between each round. Again, I was going to do this even when feeling well. This extra layer of efficiency has for the most part kept me healthy for two years!

Does all this care take up time? Yes. However, it doesn’t cost as much time as when I’m sick and lack the energy to do anything. They say that forgiveness sets you free, and now that my body has forgiven my negligence, I have more free time to enjoy life. 

So, please treat your body well. Your body will thank you for it!

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Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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